Court Proceedings Over Abortion Pill Continue

A legal battle over the availability of abortion pills has led to a court decision that could save innocent unborn lives.

On April 12, 2023, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a ruling that affects the availability of an abortion pill called mifepristone. According to Politico, a trial court had previously blocked the U.S. Food and Drug and Administration (FDA) approval of mifepristone. While the Court of Appeals ruled that mifepristone may continue to be sold, it also held that the drug may not be used after seven weeks’ gestation and may not be distributed through the mail. The Court of Appeals also held that retail pharmacies may not dispense mifepristone, that physicians may not prescribe the drug via telemedicine, and that non-physicians may not prescribe or administer the drug.

Pro-abortion advocates are besides themselves about the court’s ruling. As Politico points out, both the Biden administration and the abortion industry have pushed to make it easier to obtain abortion pills. In so doing, they hope to keep abortion available to women in conservative states that have passed pro-life laws limiting or banning surgical abortions. The court’s ruling throws a monkey wrench into their plans. Vice President Kamala Harris fumed that “‘politicians and politics have driven lawyers to go to a court of law where a judge who is not a medical professional is making a decision to undo the ruling 20 — over 20 — years ago of the FDA that declared a specific medication safe and effective for the American people.’” In contrast, Kristi Hamrick of Students for Life asserted that “‘this very evidence-based rejection of Biden’s weakened health and safety standards for chemical abortion pills is good news for women.’”

In another case involving abortion pills, a federal judge in Washington reportedly ordered the FDA to “maintain current procedures for access to the drug in 17 states and Washington, D.C.”

The U.S. Department of Justice asked the Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals decision on an emergency basis. Justice Samuel Alito, the justice in charge of reviewing appeals from the Fifth Circuit, issued a temporary stay until April 19, 2023. The Supreme Court’s temporary order to delay the lower court’s decision to limit access to mifepristone until Wednesday implies that the justices need more time to consider the government’s emergency appeal.

In response to the Court of Appeals decision, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that the state of New York would purchase and stockpile 150,000 doses of misoprostol, another abortion drug. While speaking at a Planned Parenthood conference, the Governor said, “‘[We’re] going to ensure that New Yorkers will continue to have access to medication abortion no matter what… The mega anti-abortion extremists, legislators and judges alike are hell-bent on continuing down this path. They’re coming after all forms of reproductive health care.’” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx) described the decision as “‘an unprecedented and dramatic erosion of the legitimacy of the court.’” Not to be outdone, New York Attorney General Letitia James added, “‘The fight for reproductive justice is not over. New York will continue to do everything within its power to protect reproductive rights because it should always be your body, and your choice.’”

In response, Jason J. McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, said, “I do not remember New York stockpiling baby formula during that shortage. There was no similar action for infant pain reliever when it was in short supply. Abortion pills, though? Governor Kathy Hochul and her pro-abortion cohorts are all in. Their political priorities are apparent.”